The Dallas County Commissioners voted 3-2 today to extend the shelter-in-place order until May 15. Commissioners J.J. Koch and John Wiley Price voted against the extension.
Koch proposed waiting until next week to see what data might be available from other jurisdictions that are reopening businesses, like Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Dallas County’s order was already set to be in place until April 30.
He and Price also were concerned that County Judge Clay Jenkins still has not instituted a plan for opening more businesses.
“I still find it abhorrent that we have no plan…even if the plan has a caveat,” Price complained.
Koch added that he’d like to see a plan with detailed objectives and how the shelter-in-place order may be lifted throughout the month of May.
All the commissioners agreed that a plan with more specific goals and stages for opening would be helpful, but in the end Commissioners Elba Garcia, Theresa Daniel, and Judge Jenkins voted to extend the order.
As of April 20, there have been 2,512 confirmed cases in Dallas County and 60 reported deaths.
Order to Pay Staff for Assisting with Emergency Response Pulled from Agenda
Also contentious on Tuesday’s agenda was an order to approve personal service contracts for three individuals to assist in the COVID-19 emergency response.
Commissioners Daniel, Koch, and Price voted to pull the order from the agenda. All expressed concerns that the proper process had not been followed in hiring these individuals.
“I have a real issue with this…I find it peculiar, judge, that you chose three individuals. I don’t see any expertise in any area,” Price protested.
“I know these individuals,” Daniel said, “but I would like to see this done correctly.”
Koch was also concerned about political cronyism involved in the hiring. He asked the human resources director, Bob Wilson, if any analysis had been done to see if current Dallas County employees whose duties are currently considered non-essential could fulfill these jobs.
Bob Wilson said he only looked at the resumes of Philip Haigh, Miguel Solis, and Patricia Nava to see if they were qualified to do the job they were asked to do, then whether the pay rate would be fair. They will be paid a salary of $76,037 per year.
“I have people who have been working for me for at least 15 years,” Price inserted. “They are adept, skilled, and have degrees, and they ain’t making eighty grand a year.”
Philip Haigh, who has been working with Jenkins on the coronavirus issue, was his campaign manager in 2018.
Miguel Solis is a current trustee for the Dallas Independent School District, former candidate for mayor of Dallas, and the executive director of Coalition for a New Dallas, a political action committee.
Koch expressed concerns about Solis’ resume and qualifications for the position.
“All I see here is an individual who has used and leveraged his public office into non-profits for no-work jobs,” Koch said.
However, Jenkins said that Solis has been instrumental in raising $600,000 for the COVID-19 response fund and also negotiated with distilleries to make hand sanitizer.
Patricia Nava, who was a collections recovery agent for a healthcare corporation, has overseen “answering thousands of communications asking questions” about the situation, Jenkins told the commissioners.
The commissioners suggested that the order be pulled to allow more scrutiny of the match between the individuals and the jobs they are doing, despite objections from Jenkins.
“My concern is for these human beings who have to eat and feed their families.” He said they had already been working three weeks without pay.
In reply, Koch pointed to the 2.6 million Dallas County residents who are currently hurting economically due to the shelter-in-place order.
“You want to throw your three political buddies a bone, but not the 2.6 million who live here in Dallas,” Koch retorted.
The order was eventually removed from the meeting’s agenda.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.